Sunday, October 25, 2015

Borja Virto Astudillo wins in China to earn promotion to European Tour

Peter Whiteford grabs last place in Challenge Tour Grand Final

Borja Virto Astudillo showed the nerves and composure of a true champion as the Spaniard sealed a wire-to-wire victory at The Foshan Open, Guangdong in China to book his place on The European Tour for the 2016 season.

The 24 year old moved from 15th place to third in the Road to Oman courtesy of his two-shot triumph at the lucrative $500,000 event, the penultimate tournament of the 2015 European Challenge Tour campaign.

It was a supreme show of composure and mental fortitude from Virto Astudillo, who held a three shot leading heading into the final round, as his playing partner Björn Åkesson opened with a birdie before the Pamplona-born player dropped a shot at the third to leave the door ajar for potential challengers.

Virto Astudillo bounced back with three birdies in four holes from the fifth and, despite a bogey at the ninth, he made some crucial saves to make eight straight pars thereafter. He then provided a grandstand finish with a perfectly executed birdie at the par five final hole to send the crowd into raptures.

“It feels just great,” said the former Spanish amateur international, who signed for a two under par final round 70 and a 15 under total. “I can’t believe it right now, it’s overwhelming but I’m just very happy. I’m very proud with how I fought out there because it wasn’t easy. We had a short delay before we started and it’s never easy to enter the last round leading.

“I’m happy with how I handled the pressure, I made a really nice par on 17 because my short game hasn’t been really good lately, but I managed to get up and down from behind the green. Then it was a great birdie to close the tournament out at 18.

“When I was walking to the green I knew I had won, but I didn’t really want to think about it, I just wanted to finish the hole. But it was an amazing feeling with all the people there and my dad on the bag – he has been struggling carrying the big bag but he’s done a fantastic job.

“I haven’t thought about maybe winning the Rankings but it’s an option now obviously. I’m just going to take it easy and relax, because it’s been a busy year, starting on The European Tour and then playing Challenge Tour for the second half of the season.

“I’m looking forward to a week off in Dubai, relax a little and then just try to enjoy Oman. If the game feels good I’ll try and win the Rankings.”

The Foshan Open has for the last three years provided one of the highlights of the Challenge Tour season, with huge crowds flocking to Foshan Golf Club to watch Virto Astudillo overcome his Swedish counterpart.
The former Iowa State University student, who started this season on The European Tour having claimed a card at Qualifying School Final Stage, felt the victory was even more special given the awe-inspiring surroundings.
“I have won before on Challenge Tour but it was nothing compared to this,” he said. “There are so many people, so many media. It feels great to have such a great tournament on the Challenge Tour and hopefully other tournaments will see this and try to emulate it.

“It was a tough decision for me to choose to play on the Challenge Tour, missing out on big European Tour events, but now it’s completely worth it. Hopefully this win and the experience the Challenge Tour has given me will help me to be more prepared next year.”

While Åkesson could not claim a maiden Challenge Tour victory after a three under final round 69 and a 13 under total, the Malmo player was still delighted with his runner-up finish as it also secured him a European Tour card for next year.

“It definitely feels like a win,” said the 26 year old, who moved to fourth in the Road to Oman. “I know now that I have enough money to secure my European Tour card for next year, so it just feels amazing.

“It was really fun to play today. I just stuck to my game plan and played shot by shot, as you should even though it can be tough to do, but I really did do that and I’m really happy with how I handled it today.

“It’s definitely one of the best moments of my career. It’s the same feeling as when I got my card through Qualifying School, it just feels great.”

There were myriad twists and turns in Foshan, near Guanzhou, with regard to the Road to Oman Rankings, with the most significant move coming from Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia, who leap-frogged Frenchman Sebastien Gros at the summit with just one event to play courtesy of a tied third place finish.

America John Hahn, who finished alongside Gouveia and Joachim B Hansen on 12 under par, moved to just inside the cut-off for European Tour graduation in 15th position, from 30th.

It was a huge week too for Englishman Chris Hanson, whose tied 12th finish moved him from 48th to 44th, securing a place in the season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, while Belgian Hugues Joannes’ tied eighth place finish also earned him a ticket to Muscat after moving from 54th to 44th.

Scot Peter Whiteford, who entered the week just outside the bubble, did enough with a tied 24th finish to snatch the 45th and final spot in the Grand Final.

par 288 (4x72)

273 B Virto Astudillo (Esp) 64 67 72 70,
275 B Åkesson (Swe) 67 71 68 69,
276 J Hansen  (Den) 70 65 71 70, J Hahn (USA) 71 69 68 68, R Gouveia (Por) 70 66 72 68,
277 L Jun-Seok (Aus) 69 72 67 69,
278 J Winther (Den) 72 67 71 68,
279 S Walker (Eng) 71 70 70 68, C Shinkwin (Eng) 71 71 70 67, H Joannes  (Bel) 72 71 67 69, T Murray (Eng) 71 69 71 68,
280 C Hanson (Eng) 69 69 71 71, M Orrin (Eng) 67 75 67 71, M Delpodio  (Ita) 69 72 69 70, M Wiegele  (Aut) 70 71 69 70, S Tiley (Eng) 71 68 70 71,
281 H Porteous (RSA) 65 68 73 75, M Søgaard  (Den) 72 69 68 72, T Linard (Fra) 72 67 73 69, G Charoenkul (Tha) 70 70 71 70, A McArthur  (Sco) 74 67 68 72, S Gros (Fra) 72 67 69 73, C Selfridge  (Nir) 69 70 68 74,
282 W Harrold (Eng) 70 72 72 68, P Whiteford (Sco) 73 71 68 70, G Boyd  (Eng) 72 72 65 73, S Jeppesen  (Swe) 72 72 69 69, Z Hui-Lin (Chn) 72 71 71 68,
283 C Sordet  (Fra) 75 69 69 70, C Ding-Gen (Chn) 70 68 71 74, J Makitalo  (Fin) 73 70 67 73, L Gagli  (Ita) 71 69 73 70, J McLeary  (Sco) 73 68 70 72, R Evans  (Eng) 75 69 69 70,
284 H Shao-Cai (Chn) 71 73 68 72, E Cuartero Blanco  (Esp) 69 74 72 69, J Dantorp (Swe) 68 72 75 69, A Björk (Swe) 69 72 70 73, R Davies (Wal) 71 73 70 70,
285 G Sapp (USA) 73 71 72 69, S Soderberg (Swe) 70 73 69 73, J Fahrbring (Swe) 72 69 74 70, J Sjöholm (Swe) 73 71 71 70,
286 J Lima  (Por) 73 71 72 70, M Schneider (Ger) 71 74 72 69, Z Xin-Jun (Chn) 69 69 72 76, R Fox (Nzl) 72 69 73 72, E Dubois (Fra) 67 68 73 78,
288 Y Guang-Ming (Chn) 73 72 70 73, R Coles (Eng) 72 72 74 70, T Remkes (Ned) 71 68 72 77, P Widegren  (Swe) 72 71 73 72,
289 D Im (USA) 74 71 73 71, C Hai-Meng (Chn) 72 70 72 75, D Lee (SKor) 73 67 78 71, Z Guo-Wu (Chn) 70 72 73 74, D Foos (Ger) 73 71 69 76,
290 S Kim (USA) 74 71 69 76,
291 M Yiyuan (Chn) 72 71 72 76,
295 C Zi-Hao (Chn) 66 74 71 84,
296 S Yi-Cheng (Chn) 75 70 80 71, 



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